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"There is no time more propitious for us to rise up together and forestall malice; and drive back clouds of despair. The energy for action must be our unrivalled love and unquestioned commitment to Guyana", he said at this year's Investiture Ceremony at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown.
He said that in the process and through these experiences, Guyanese must come to learn the true meaning of the national motto and know that the nation's diversity is not a reason for divisiveness, that legitimate political competition can bring out the best among them and not the worse, and that in spite of historical places of origin, they are now Guyanese.
He pointed out that the mending of the breaches in society cannot become the responsibility of the Government alone but demands the goodwill of others. Every group - churches, mosques and temples; the private sector through its significant reach; political organisations; all the organisations that congregate under the umbrella of civil society, must assume their role to slow the gallop away from traditions and turn the nation back from the path of ruin, he said.
Similarly, the preservation of the society cannot be accomplished, and dare not become the absolute occupation of any single or combined agency. According to the President, this burden cannot be exclusively placed on the shoulders of the men and women in uniform but every citizen must be a soldier for peace, and every man and woman, a force for good.
"The preservation of our society requires that the sectors of our society that appear to be cowered by fear act in patent fairness to all groups and do not pursue the appeasement of those who condone, encourage or commit criminal acts. Only in that way can they promote national unity, become a voice of reason, promote our security and have an impact on crime."
Noting that a lawless society is a frightening prospect and all must cease further attempts to undermine the walls of restraint imposed for the good and safety of all, President Jagdeo stated, "Let us not test the strength of the erected institutions lest they collapse under prolonged strain. Let us not subject the very fabric of our society to the assault and bombardment of damaging unsocial behaviour, which will set us back in our efforts to create a better life for all".
He called on Guyanese to look to the future, and not be daunted by the present challenges and setbacks, noting that Guyana's future is secure and its destiny, sure.
"Let our history instruct and encourage us. In our history we have crossed greater rivers and conquered mightier foes. We have confronted larger challenges and did not falter.
"I have every confidence that our future is secure and our destiny is sure. Together, we will find a way out of our difficulties," he told the gathering at the National Cultural Centre.
President Jagdeo noted that every country has met its share of challenges in the march to progress and that every country has known the hour of trial and the moment of despair in the arduous journey to nationhood.
In such times, he said, the men and women who placed country above self; chose courage and rejected cowardice; heeded consciences instead of impulses; and valued humanity above clique or clan, are the paragons that live beyond their death in the hearts of their countrymen as he commended the 42 Guyanese who were yesterday honoured for their long service, dedication and outstanding contribution to Guyana.
Receiving the highest award was Chancellor of the Judiciary, Ms. Desiree Bernard, who was presented with the Order of Roraima.
Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief-of-Staff, Brigadier Michael Atherly, was bestowed the Military Service Star while Chief Justice Carl Singh, Justice Claudette Singh, and Mr. George Ignatius De Peana, received the Cacique's Crown of Honour.
Also awarded were Vidya Gooray, and Allan Higgins who received the President's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Higgins was killed by bandits earlier this year while in the line of duty.
Receiving the Golden Arrow of Achievement awards were Edward Boyer, Evelyn Maud Hamilton, Christopher Fernandes, Roy Hughes, and Winston McGowan.
The Disciplined Services Medal for Meritorious Service went to Superintendent of Police (Seniors), Philbert Williams Adams, Frederick Fitzroy Caesar, Lynette Carter, Eon Rolston David, Malvin Fitz-Maurice Glasgow, Eustace Shannon John, Greta Elizabeth McDonald. Also receiving this award were Edgar Napleton Persaud, Special Deputy Supt. of Police, and Station Officers of the Guyana Fire Service, Lawrence Oliver David and Bridgpaul Indarsham.
The Military Service Medal for distinguished service beyond the call of duty went to Gordon Michael Anthony Benn, Lt. Colonel, GDF, Christine King, Anthony Trevor Pompey, Randolph Horatio Storm, Gavin Paul, Warrant Officer Class 1, GDF, and Gary Antony Rodwell Best, Commander, GDF.
For their distinguished service in various fields, the Medal of Service awards went to Layton George Bourne, Mary Pamela Chapman, Dorothy Anne Fraser, Sheila George, Prakash Gossai, Shaik Moeenul Hack , Kenneth Carnegie King, Rajkishore Mangal, Geoffrey Murray, Ramdeo, Ahamad Rasheed, Joseph Andrew Romascindo.
There were two Group Awards which went to the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association and the Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe.
"I am today delighted to extend to you the awardees the sincere congratulations of a grateful nation. Your fellow citizens have esteemed your dedication to this dear land, and your contributions to Guyana to be worthy of national honour. I also offer you the congratulations of the Government.
"I am aware that you did not crave national awards when you embarked upon your vocation, and responded to the call to service. Occasionally in utter obscurity, and often unnoticed, you resolutely and persistently served your country and fellow citizens.
"In the process you have come to know and to show that service to others is the greatest good and a most fulfilling experience," President Jagdeo said noting that the moment allows for silent national reflection and quiet individual resolve.
The distinguished contributions of the awardees have been in law and enterprise; public service and education; humanitarian work and religion; culture and community development; business and trade unionism; national defence and the maintenance of law and order.
President Jagdeo said that all of these areas are important and vital for a caring, progressive and orderly society and referred to the case of Constable Allan Higgins, in which he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when he placed his life in danger in the maintenance of law and order.
"In countless ways you have inspired others. You have made choices that were not only personally beneficial but were good for your country. Through your deeds you have challenged your fellow citizens to respond to a higher calling.
"Today you challenge us to discover the good in ourselves. These national awards are but a modest, deserved response of a forever grateful nation," he stated.
According to President Jagdeo, the Government has been making tremendous efforts towards development of the nation by expanding the social space, laying the foundations for a better and just society, reforming the inherited political system; strengthening the institution of the State; improving the economic prospects of citizens, and enhancing the life chances of this and coming generations.
He said that in the end, the objective is the improvement of the standard of living of all Guyanese.
"This is the goal of our development programme. Our vision is a Guyana in which all our people are dwelling within secured national borders, living in harmonious cooperation, and experiencing a measure of contentment".
He, however, pointed out that for this vision to be realised and progress accelerated, the security and safety of the people must remain a priority.
According to him, that is why the Government has spared no effort nor resource in the fight against crime and the maintenance of law and order. The success of these measures, he said, demands the unconditional support of all Guyanese.
"I remain firm in my belief that only through dialogue and consultation can we successfully confront the challenges of our society," he stated.
The President further called on the gathering to remember the nation's heroes noting that they are honoured when in their sacred memories every person dedicate themselves to the happiness and prosperity of Guyana.
To the awardees he said, "As a people we have made progress over these 36 years of Independence. Perhaps, we would have been further along the road of development had we been spared some of the historical difficulties.
"Notwithstanding you like many other Guyanese offer us a renewed sense of hope. You have distinguished yourselves in service to others and your country and will remain an inspiration to this nation. Your unfading acts of goodness and kindness and your noble spirit will silently challenge us to play our several parts in building a just and equitable society in this land that we love".
Chairman of the Advisory Council for the Orders of Guyana, Chancellor Bernard gave an overview of the Orders of Guyana.